Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism Online

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Edited by: Knut A. Jacobsen (Editor-in-Chief), University of Bergen, and Helene Basu, University of Münster, Angelika Malinar, University of Zürich, Vasudha Narayanan, University of Florida (Associate Editors)

Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism presents the latest research on all the main aspects of the Hindu traditions. Its 438 essays are original work written by the world’s foremost scholars on Hinduism. The encyclopedia presents a balanced and even-handed view of Hinduism, recognizing the divergent perspectives and methods in the academic study of a religion that has ancient historical roots with many flourishing traditions today. Including all essays from the heralded printed edition, Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism is now to be regularly updated with new articles and available in a fully searchable, dynamic digital format.

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Shirdi Sai Baba

(6,354 words)

Author(s): Rigopoulos, Antonio
Nowadays Sai Baba of Shirdi (d. Oct 15, 1918) is no doubt the most popular saint of India, mirroring the archetype of the holy man. His portraits are ubiquitous, and he has a place in almost all family altars and pūjā rooms. Since 1977 he has been the subject of several films and, more recently, of television serials. His temples and shrines are found throughout the country, and Shirdi in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra has become a national pilgrimage center. Venerated as a wondrous miracle worker by millions across the subcon…
Date: 2019-01-30


(2,970 words)

Author(s): Sinha, Vineeta
Hindu presence in British Malaya has been documented from the early decades of the 19th century, when the kangani system (from Tam. kaṅkāni, overseer) provided South Indian labor for not only British Malaya but also Burma and Ceylon (Sandhu, 1969). Large numbers of Tamils of non-Brahman and Dravidian background were moved as "coolie" workers globally to South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Réunion, Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. For British Malaya, much of this labor was drawn from the low…
Date: 2019-01-30


(5,335 words)

Author(s): Manring, Rebecca J.
Listen carefully, devotees, while I tell the story of Mother Śītalā’s birth. King Nahuṣa was performing a sacrifice to obtain a son. Who could count all the sages and seers who came! They performed the sacrifice with the offerings, unimpeded, and the whole ceremony came off peacefully. At the end of the sacrifice, they put out the fire. In it they found a radiant young woman. She emerged with a winnowing tray on her head. When Brahmā caught sight of her, he politely asked, “Who are you, lovely girl, whose wife? Why were you in the fire? Tell us the story!” “A goddess! I was born in the fire pi…
Date: 2019-01-30


(10,077 words)

Author(s): Bisschop, Peter
Possessing nothing and the source of all wealth, lord of the world and denizen of the abode of the dead, dreadful in form he’s called “Gentle” Shiva. No one knows the Bearer of the Pinaka bow as he truly is. ( KumSambh. 5.77; trans. Smith, 2005) Śiva almost by nature defies definition and is, if anything, an ambivalent god of contrasts. Although he is often presented as the third aspect of the Hindu trinity ( trimūrti) – with Brahmā assuming the role of creator, Viṣṇu that of preserver, and Śiva (or rather, Rudra) that of destroyer of the universe at the end of a cy…
Date: 2019-01-30

Sivananda and the Divine Life Society

(5,821 words)

Author(s): Strauss, Sarah
The man who would become Swami Sivananda, Kuppuswami Iyer, was born into a distinguished Brahman family in Pattamadai, Tamil Nadu, in the year 1887. Kuppuswami Iyer is a very common South Indian Brahman family name; the other major Tamil Brahman family surname is Iyengar, a name quite familiar to yoga practitioners worldwide. That these yoga teachers come from these families is not surprising, as Tamil Nadu has a reputation in India for having the most orthodox of Brahman Hindu castes and in some ways being the “repository” of traditional Hindu pra…
Date: 2019-01-30


(11,483 words)

Author(s): Shrimali, K.M.
Defining slavery is complex. This is to be expected from an institution which, in its various forms, existed all over the world and from the beginnings of recorded human history until the 21st century. Given the vast temporal (3d millennium BCE to c. 1300 CE) and spatial (the Indian subcontinent) spread of this survey, complexities become manifold, and still more so when it is realized that the textual references one is expected to invoke are equally myriad. These cut across several linguistic b…
Date: 2019-01-30


(6,545 words)

Author(s): Jackson, William J.
“Smārta” is a designation that characterizes certain Brahmans from a variety of regions of India. Thus, there are Telugu-speaking Smārta Brahmans, Maharashtran and Gujarati Smārta Brahmans, and Tamil Smārta Brahmans, among others. In South India, “Ayyar” (sometimes spelled Iyer) is often added to Smārta Brahmans’ personal and family names. Tamil Brahmans who are Vaiṣṇavas often add “Ayyangar” to their names to distinguish themselves from other communities. “Ayyar” is the Tamilized form of “Ayya,” which is Telugu for “noble” (originating from the Skt. ārya), just as “Ayyanga…
Date: 2019-01-30


(4,798 words)

Author(s): McHugh, James
From an early period, aromatic substances prepared in a variety of ways have played important roles in many forms of Hindu worship. Even nowadays incense ( dhūpa), perfumes of various sorts, and garlands ( mālās) remain common offerings and adornments in pūjā rites. Certain materials, such as sandalwood, have long been considered precious or exotic commodities. Over the centuries, from around the start of the Common Era, the range of such aromatics available to use in religious rites expanded as trade contacts increased. Then, in the…
Date: 2019-01-30